At Thursday night’s Community Board 6 public bike lane hearing, it would be safe to say that the pros outweighed the cons.
Over 300 people packed into the John Jay Campus auditorium last night to praise, condemn, and critique the controversial Prospect Park West bike lane at a veritable bike lane “open-mic night," but it was the lane supporters that were out en masse.
Armed with gushing tales of the bike lane and decked out in neon pink and green stickers bearing symbols that read “Bicycles Love Pedestrians,” one after another bike lane advocate took the stand.
One neighborhood cyclist, Johanna Clearfield, exclaimed to the crowd that she alone probably uses the bike lane enough to justify its existence – using it for exercise, errands and many other facets of daily life.
“I am a registered Republican living in Park Slope,” began Jesse Rosenfeld, another particularly crowd-pleasing speaker. “Even I am pro bike lane. I am pro the bike lanes on Prospect Park West because bicyclists need a self and legal place to ride.”
Evoking cheers from a sea of apparent bike lovers, Rosenfeld ended his speech with a friendly reminder to cyclists to follow the rules of the road.
But the opposition to the Prospect Park West bike lane, though few, came bearing big news: , Neighbors for Better Bike Lanes and Seniors for Safety proposed “compromise” in the face of this now international controversy.
“What we propose as a compromise tonight, is replacing the protected, [two-way] bike lane, with two sets of [one-way] bike lanes: one on Prospect Park West and one on Eighth Avenue,” said NBBL President Louis Hainline, only days after NBBL and SFS seeking to remove the bike lane.
Hainline told Patch that if the Department of Transportation agreed to the fix, NBBL and Seniors for Safety would likely withdraw their lawsuit.
“We don’t want to sue, we didn’t want to sue in the first place. We just couldn’t get a meeting with DOT,” said Hainline.
Though not everyone was willing to recognize the gesture as a compromise.
“Having three lanes of vehicle traffic on Prospect Park West was the major problem in the first place,” said Eric McClure, pointing out that the bike lane was primarily installed in order to reduce speeding on the thoroughfare.
Removing one direction of the lanes and adding back in a lane of traffic would only return the park-side boulevard to its original problems, he reasoned. Others have also pointed out that Eighth Avenue is likely too narrow to accomodate a bike lane.
The bike lane in question was controversially installed last June, and in January the DOT having effectively reduced speeding and accidents, among other things, according to a study by the agency.
“While I know not everyone agrees, I really do believe Prospect Park West is now a calmer, safer street, that the bike lane is working, and that the significant majority of residents share that opinion,” said Councilmember Brad Lander, who found that the majority of Park Slope residents indeed support the bike lane in a separate, independent last year.
Thursday night's turnout – in which cycling advocates outnumbered naysayers by about four to one – seemed to reflect Lander's sentiments.
“I think that the three lanes of traffic really invited highway-style driving,” said Carroll Street resident Jennifer Cain, who recounted a near-collision between her family and a car as she and her two sons were bicycling up Prospect Park West before the bike lanes were installed.
“This bike lane could have prevented this life-threatening situation,” said Cain
Even two pint-sized speakers took the mic, getting to cut the line in order to make it home by bed time.
"I really love the bike lane, it's better than riding on bumpy crowded sidewalk," said Jade, a second grader.
Hainline said the weak turnout in support of removing the lanes was partially due to a lack of decorum in the past, which had some would-be speakers afraid to attend the event.
Few speakers, though, commented on the true purpose of the meeting: to hear community input on specific proposals for future changes and improvements to the lanes, many of which were revealed at a DOT presentation in January.
Proposed changes include adding raised, landscaped pedestrian islands, narrowing the buffer strip approaching Grand Army Plaza to create a wider lane for vehicle traffic, and adding “rumble strips” to the bike lanes approaching pedestrian crosswalks.
Post-hearing, the community board will vote on which proposals to recommend to the Department of Transportation for possible implementation.